Burke Lady School : PreSchool FAQ's

Y'all, we have had a heckuva summer. Beaching and aquariuming and getting some pretty jam-tastic tans. But summer, summer does not last forever, and starting September 2nd, school will come.


BUT THAT IS TOTALLY AWESOME We have been doing preschool at home since 2012, and at the start of this year (Jan 2014) I became fully immersed in the Charlotte Mason philosophy of teaching. It may come as a surprise to many that I, someone who was going to college to get her degree to become a bilingual Montessori teacher, have come to this, but now, I couldn't imagine it any other way. And, then again, some of you may not be so surprised because you may think that they are similar, or even the same thing . (read more about What CM Is here and ow it is different from other teaching philosophies here)

Now, before I get too far ahead of myself, let me just put this out there for you dear mamas & papas. EVEN THOUGH I have (a limited amount of) experience teaching, and feel completely confident in my God given ability to teach my children, I am not writing this because I think I have got this thing in the bag. Through years of Pinteresting and blog scouring and driving my husband crazy, I have found a groove that is best for our family, for now. Texas has the most lax homeschool laws in the country and it gives me a lot of freedom to do what I feel is best for my girls

Do I think every home should/can/wants/is in the appropriate circumstance to teach their children? Nope.

Do I think that every homeschooling family should/can/wants/is in the appropriate circumstance to look like ours? Nuh Uh.

But I frequently am asked to share our resources and I've been helped so much over the years (and I will continue to need that help, trust me!) so I hope to be helpful, and not condemning in any way. Some things that make our circumstances unique: My husband works a very physically demanding job to give me the ability to stay home with the girls. We live a very simple lifestyle, void of the things many families have as staples in order to keep our cost of living low. This includes staying in a two bedroom tiny condo. My "office" is an upstairs closet and one of the 2 tiny storage closets we have downstairs has been converted into a library/school supply closet (to keep the Phoebe monster from destroying it all) The money I make from my photography business goes straight to our school budget (library building), supplies, membership fees, etc. before anything else. My husband was homeschooled through elementary and middle school and is a literal genius and I spent some time in college pursuing a degree in education. Our middle daughter has a suspected autoimmune disorder that causes her to go into anaphylactic shock triggered by a never ending list of foods/environmental hazards, making it very dangerous for her to be in environments that are very particularly controlled.

WHEW. Now that's out of the way. Let's get started.

"When did you start homeschooling and what did you start with?" We have wanted to keep our girls at home since we got pregnant with our first. It was always something very dear to us. When Lily turned three (July 2012) I got all Pinterest crazed and started "teaching her" Colors, numbers, alphabet. It was all very busy, very forced. Lots of "things" seemed to be the way you teach preschoolers. Busy bags, manipulative, trays, baskets, STUFF STUFF STUFF. It was very overwhelming and I burned out VEH-HE-HERY quickly.

Don't hear me wrong, I'm not saying that any of these things are inherently bad. Pinterest simply made me feel like every minute of every day need a fun, googly-eyed, glitter bombed activity to be a proper homeschooling mom. And that sucked.

But I will say, mamas, if you are considering homeschooling, do yourself a favor -  STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER/PHONE. A lot of damage can be done constantly looking at what others are doing in their home. Inspiration does happen, but be cautious of how much/and what you're taking away from all this browsing.

From time to time, I MOST DEFINITELY break out the pom poms and play dough, but when I first started, I quickly began searching for something more gratifying.


I was soon introduced to Rod & Staff. Starting at age three, I am going through their "ABC" series of books with each of the girls Both Lily and Norah really love  sitting down and working through a workbook, and these have been such a beautiful resource for that.

And then, upon further investigation, I found Charlotte Mason, and fell madly in love with this woman (how scandalous!) I bought "The Early Years: A Charlotte Mason Preschool Handbook" and began to learn about what this dear woman thought education in the home from ages 0-6 should look like. Her high standards, love of learning and God's Word, and simplicity drew me to her ways of teaching. When I tried finding more moms who used her curriculum, I found that some of the children I knew who were the brightest, kindest, Jesus chasingest, wildest, and brilliantest, had mothers using this philosophy. And before I say what's already been said before head on over to this blog. She says what I want to say down to the last period. Go, now. (and please come back!)

Ok, you back? Good. Isn't that so intriguing?! So we started focusing on scripture memorization, bible study, nature study, and character building right then and there with all of our girls. This is a constant with all of them and will carry through their entire education.  

"How do you give each child individual attention?/What do you do with the littles?"

Well, you see this little stinker? As of right now, she is WAY too into everything to be a part of our lessons right now. In fact, for quite some time, I don't expect her to do any sit down work, only to sit and listen while we are reading.

I tend to sneak in individual, or harder work for Lily when her other sisters are napping our pre-occupied. This does not mean I leave Norah with structured work to be done on her own. But since lessons are only 10-20 minutes each right now, and only take up about 2 hours of our day, this is working for us. Remember, they are LITTLE. The long days of school outside of the home are not ideal for these squirmy little adventurers.


"What does your typical day look like?"

I am not - NOT - a morning person. I do get up and going rather easily, but that initial throw off of the covers...it is killer. With that being said, I try and get up at about 730 for my own devotional time, and make sure the kitchen isn't a complete disaster (if I haven't cleaned up the night before) I let the girls play in their room until 8 and then it's time to get ready for the day, beds made, teeth brushed, hair combed, out of pjs. Then breakfast and clean up by 9. Then I usually let them play while I get ready for the day, maybe check emails, etc, and then I put Phoebe down for her morning nap. Then we break out the school. Once a week we are meeting up with friends for nature study (we need more friends to do this with, so if you're in the Rockport area, C'MON!!!) and we're very active in our church as well as keep a full calendar of the local events.

 "How do you teach art to your children?"

Like I said before, all of the Pinteresty paper plate, googley eyed, blah blah blah tend to stress me out like no other. I approach art the way that CM does mostly everything - by exposing them to the greats, and then letting their minds discover their own way. We are using their Artist Picture Study (Van Gough this Term) and we basically will put out a print every week for them to examine and discuss. I also allow them to create something inspired by that painting. When we aren't doing picture study, I let them get out their sea shell collection, or pick some flowers, or go find some bugs and draw/paint a picture inspired by that object.

 "What are you using to teach math?"

Through the recommendation of many mamas, we have chosen to use Math U See, starting with their primer. Before this, the Rod and Staff books were great at introducing number concepts


"What are you using to teach reading & writing"

We have used and will continue to use (via Simply Charlotte Mason's Preschool Guide) Delightful Reading & Delightful Handwriting. These cover activities for all three girls for us right now, with Lily being the most advanced, and Pheebs being the most introductory observer.

"What is all of this Nature Study Business?"

You can read loads more about it here, but as Karen Glass states "First, the big, important, significant principle at stake in nature study is observation and forming a relationship with what you are observing. Let me say it this way: quality matters more than quantity--much more!" We have been focusing on beach life this past year, but this year will add in what is on the recommended schedule


"What Curriculum do you use? How do you plan your year?"

Now we get down to the nitty gritty. This was my question for years. And for years I rolled my eyes as women told me "I just use Ambleside Online's Schedule and tweak it for my kids!"


ahem... and then I actually looked it up... and it's really that simple. All of the girls, until age six, are considered to be in Year Zero. From Ambleside Online:

"Year 0 is not a formal Ambleside year, but refers to all the years before formal academics begin in Year 1 (typically on or after age 6). During these early years, we focus on helping the child discover his own world through his own explorations, with lots of outdoor time and real tasks around the house. We might introduce gentle academics through play, such as playing with objects (to introduce math concepts) or playing with letters (to introduce beginning reading)."

Now, with doing this for so long with Lily, she is ready for more! HOORAY, HOMESCHOOLING! We can move at her own pace. So as I mentioned before, I looked at Simply Charlotte Mason's Preschool Guide and started adding in a few things from there, as well as a few things from Year One. I have actually adapted the year one schedule to fit my girls needs where they are, with some of the books we love as well. I have customized a yearly schedule (by terms) and a weekly schedule that is very specific for my girls and tangible for me to keep up with this year. If you would like to take a peek at it, or customize it yourself, you can find it here on my google drive. I am getting all of my planning done before school  starts to keep me on track, and give me less to do during the school year. On top of meal planning, church planning, sanity planning, if I can have one less thing to plan, I'm a happy camper!

"What about socialization?"

I almost didn't answer this question. I have very strong opinions, from very deep convictions about this question, but it seems to be on the very tip of everyone's tongue. My husband is socially awkward, he was partially homeschooled. I am socially awkward, I was 100% public schooled. The things that I've been exposed to with my public school experience (by the third grade I witnessed sexual behaviors on the bus, drug use in school bathrooms, racial bullying, sexist bullying, physical violence, and all of it only increased in frequency and intensity the older I got. the bullying played a big part in my own suicide attempt.) These concerns bring out some really bleak responses in people "But that's the real world! You can't hide your kids from it forever...." is what I hear most. And as an evangelical, mission minded family, that is in no way our desire or expectation. Some things that we've already noticed is that Lily's vocabulary is far more extensive than her peers, which can be off-putting to other children in her Sunday school classes and our neighborhood. She is also very opinionated which can make her a bit of a spectacle. And you would be very surprised by how often she gets laughed at when she walks up to another child, and says "Hello, my name is Lily, what's your name?" They often roll their eyes and run away. It takes a lot to suppress the mama bear rage that happens there.

But before I get (more) offensive I will point you to a blog that addresses this concern in a very graceful manner.

Other random words of advice

-Texas has the laxest homeschooling laws in the country. I honestly haven't looked into how this way of teaching with effect their higher education, but I'll go more into that some other time ;] -Give yourself GRACE. These are the preschool years. The itty bitty, totally doable, you got this years. Are there days when I spend too much time on my phone? Yep. Are there days where I totally don't have my shit together and say the fuck word too many times? Of course. -But I see my little girls minds growing, and I know we're making progress. They forgive me so easily, it's a true gift. -Cover your home in encouraging words. Remind yourself WHY you are doing this and WHO you are doing this for. -Pray with your husband about your decision to homeschool and what curriculum to use. You feel much more supported knowing you both are in agreement, and that he has some idea of what/how you're teaching the kiddos. -Be sensitive to what is working and what isn't, and be okay to let go of the stuff that isn't, even if you thought you'd love it. And remember to press into the things that ARE working, even if they are hard. -Find friends, find community.

(all photos were taken from my Instagram account @mae_burke)